Cuba protests: They dared to protest final July. Now these Cubans are going through 30 years in jail

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Like so many different companies, the small cafeteria she and her husband ran was shuttered due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Worsening meals and drugs shortages had left many retailer cabinets in Cuba utterly naked. The federal government’s adoption of a plan to upend Cuba’s twin foreign money system meant these with out entry to remittances from overseas had been at a good larger drawback.

“There was no drugs, nothing. And on prime of that they promote all the things in a foreign money that the majority Cubans do not have,” Vázquez stated referencing the brand new Freely Convertible Forex, or MLC, a foreign money which comes on pay as you go playing cards.

“I lived subsequent to a retailer the place they promote issues within the exhausting foreign money and I can not even go purchase a lollipop for my children. Everybody was in nice want.”

More and more determined and linked by way of cellular networks, Cubans organized their first protests in San Antonio de los Baños on July 11 in protest of energy outages within the midst of the sweltering summer time warmth following months of frustration over shortages and pandemic-related restrictions. Rapidly the protests unfold throughout the island, with Cubans overtly defying the communist-run authorities — which blames Cuba’s financial woes on US sanctions — in a manner not seen for the reason that 1959 revolution.

Cubans demonstrate in rare protests in Havana on July 11, 2021.

Within the metropolis of Cárdenas, a two-hour drive east of Havana, the place Vázquez lives, lots of poured onto the streets to denounce the power shortages and an absence of freedoms. One among them was Vázquez’s husband, Daniel Joel Cárdenas Díaz.

Vázquez stated her husband took half within the protests exterior a state-owned fuel station close to their dwelling, however was too afraid to enter the shop the place police say looting occurred. When police arrived and started clashing with demonstrators, Vazquez stated her husband retreated again to the house they shared with their two-year outdated twin boy and lady.

“I even stated, ‘You did not seize something for the youngsters — not even a snack?'” she stated.

Two days later, after police had quelled the protests throughout a lot of the island, Vázquez stated that police and Cuban “black beret” particular forces appeared exterior the couple’s dwelling and started battering down the door.

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Vázquez managed to document two transient movies along with her cellphone as police pressured their manner into the house, weapons drawn. She says she hid the cellphone between her legs to maintain it from being taken and sheltered along with her younger youngsters as police fired at her husband. She stated that one of many rounds grazed the again of his head.

“After I noticed him on the ground they had been hitting him with a baton,” she stated. “He was on harm on the ground coated in blood, in an enormous pool of blood. I assumed he was useless.”

Whereas the video Vazquez took exhibits a pool of blood on the ground of her dwelling, CNN was not capable of independently affirm the extent of her husband’s accidents.

In a 3rd video taken after police took her husband away, Vázquez exhibits the blood on the ground and cries to her neighbors who’ve gathered at her entrance door, “They’ve destroyed my home!”

Vázquez stated she believes police raided their home as a case of mistaken id. She stated that police first accused her husband of serving to to overturn a automobile in entrance of the headquarters of the town’s communist celebration.

Vazquez stated her husband was not concerned with that incident.

CNN has reached out to the federal government for remark.

Vázquez's husband Daniel Joel Cárdenas Díaz, seen here with their two children.

After the harrowing video Vázquez took was aired by the worldwide press, Cuban-state run media launched photographs of Cárdenas being calmly being questioned by police to refute what they known as “pretend information” experiences that he had been critically wounded. The nationwide information program additionally confirmed safety digicam video that state media stated confirmed Cárdenas exterior the fuel station after it had been broken.

In December, Cárdenas was tried and convicted of sabotage and public dysfunction. He now faces a 15-year sentence in jail, Vázquez stated.

“These individuals did not kill anybody, they did not put bombs,” Vázquez stated. “They threw rocks and requested for liberty, that was all. And they’re being sentenced to greater than 20 years in jail.”

In line with an announcement launched by Cuban prosecutors, 790 individuals have been charged for his or her involvement within the protests, with 172 individuals already convicted. The trials are doubtless the biggest mass trials to happen in Cuba since Fidel Castro took energy in 1959 and presided over televised trials of lots of of officers of the deposed Batista regime.

Regardless of widespread requires amnesty for the July protesters, the federal government has vowed to harshly punish those that took half within the spontaneous rebellion.

“It has been corresponded to us to evaluate those that, performing as pawns of the subversive onslaught and tried destabilization by the enemies of the revolution, have dedicated vandalism (and) violent aggression towards authorities and officers,” Cuban Prime Minister Manuel Marrero Cruz stated at a authorities ceremony in January attended by the Minister of Justice, judges and different high-ranking officers, in accordance with the state-run media.

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However human rights observers say most of the accused protestors haven’t had sufficient entry to legal professionals or been capable of mount a protection as they face decades-long jail sentences.

“This can be a stage of large, systematic criminalization of demonstrators that we have now very hardly ever seen in Latin America in current a long time,” Juan Pappier, a senior Americas researcher at Human Rights Watch, informed CNN. “It’s extremely clear the message the Cuban authorities is attempting to convey is that what occurred in July is totally forbidden and can’t occur once more.”

In a short cellphone name from El Guatao, the ladies’s jail in Havana the place she is being held, protestor Mackyani Yosney Román Rodríguez decried the “terrible” situations of her incarceration.

Román stated she was arrested in July after clashes with police, whom she blamed for inflicting the violence within the working-class Havana neighborhood of La Guïnera the place she lived.

“It was horrible, the police arrived and simply began capturing,” she stated.

Román, 24, stated she is charged with an extended record of crimes, together with sedition, and faces 25 years in jail. Two of her brothers additionally face prolonged jail sentences for allegedly participating within the protests, she stated.

CNN has reached out to the federal government for remark.

The protests — and now the trials of lots of of protestors — mark a earlier than and after within the island’s historical past for a lot of Cubans.

A few of the protesters’ members of the family say whatever the mass trials and harsh sentences, anti-government resentment will proceed to simmer.
Marbelis Vázquez Hernández, pictured at her home in Cárdenas last week.

“When will our children see him once more? When they’re adults,” Marbelis Vázquez Hernández stated from her new home, a easy construction created from cement blocks on a tough, filth highway that she moved to along with her youngsters following her husband’s arrest.

She stated she was too traumatized by seeing police beat her husband to stay of their outdated dwelling. Regardless that it appears doubtless her husband will spend years in jail, Vázquez stated she is going to enchantment his case and proceed to advocate for his launch. She says she won’t be intimidated by the federal government’s marketing campaign towards the protesters.

“I’m not afraid, they’ve made me stronger,” she stated.

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